Discrimination in recruitment. Not only good – essential!

Last week I blogged on the importance of “job order triage”. Great recruiters ruthlessly prioritise the briefs they work on, and put most effort into the highly fillable few.

Well, what about the candidates to invest time in?

Some recruiters take the view that as there is a talent shortage, every candidate needs equal help and focus.

Afraid not. Big mistake.

You need to discriminate when it comes to talent selection. Obviously not on the basis on creed, colour, ethnicity, or any other irrelevant, illegal or immoral prejudice.

No, you need to discriminate on the basis of the answer to one golden question.

Is this candidate placeable?

And a placeable candidate is one about whom you can answer YES to these two questions.

  • If put in front of the right clients, will this candidate likely be offered a job?
  • If offered a job on reasonable market terms, is this candidate likely to accept it?

There it is – the definition of a placeable candidate. Obvious huh?

Well not so obvious if you see the bumbling efforts of most recruiters when it comes to deciding who they spend their precious time on.

Common errors include working on the candidate with the most marketable skills (cool but what good is that if his salary expectations are 25% above market?). Or working on a candidate who deep down has no real intention of leaving where they are, but in fact have had a bad week and are just flirting with leaving. After you have done all the work to find them a job, their current employer will easily woo them back with money, or emotional blackmail, or both.

But a great recruiter knows all this before they ever start trying to find someone a job.

Placeable candidates. The ones you should discriminate towards when it comes to effort, typically have all or most of these characteristics:

  • They have skills and experience currently in demand.
  • Their salary expectations are reasonable and they present as an affordable option to a potential employer.
  • They have legitimate and tested reasons for leaving where they are now. You have dug down and unearthed their true motivators to leave and you believe you can find them these things in a new role.
  • You have pre-empted the possibility of a counter offer from their current employer.
  • They interview well. Likeable, personable, communicative.
  • The candidate buys into your “rules of engagement” where you explain how you and he will work together, and during the process they deliver on that commitment. (For example returning your calls, attending all interviews etc.
  • The candidate agrees to allow you to exclusively handle their job search.

Remember this: Finding someone a job is only half the battle. Getting them to accept it is the other half.

So “discriminate” to your heart’s content. Work hard on candidates who will get a job offer if put in front of a client and will accept it once it comes.

Views: 97

Comment by Greg Savage on July 20, 2011 at 2:55pm

Hi Valentio

I am not sure I fully understand your argument here

However you should know that nothing about my article suggests anyone should be discriminated against for any inappropriate reason. Indeed I state it rather clearly.


"Obviously not on the basis on creed, colour, ethnicity, or any other irrelevant, illegal or immoral prejudice."


Nor do I advocate that we act as a lackey, and agree blindly to a clients questionable hiring criteria. Indeed I have many times told a client we won't proceed with a hire based on criteria that really does discriminate on improper grounds


So NO is the answer to your question. We will not be dropping "minorities" off our list as you call it. We stick to the placeable criteria without succumbing consciously or unconsciously to any prejudice that may exist in the wider community. In fact it may well encourage us to push harder

Comment by Valentino Martinez on July 20, 2011 at 2:57pm


While it’s interesting to attempt to make a negative word positive--aren’t you also motivating the negative aspects of recruitment discrimination by approaching only the “fillable few”?  Doesn’t it occur to you that discrimination may already be built into many “fillable few” jobs?

I get that recruiters should not waste time with candidates who don’t meet your seven requirements for being “Placeable candidates”, but if your candidate(s) happens to be a minority and makes your “placeable” list initially—but suddenly gets no takers relative to the employers who utilize your services--in all practicality, won’t you be dropping minorities off your list?  Particularly to take to those employers who consistently demonstrate that they discriminate and would appreciate your help to that end by not supplying qualified minorities, just qualified, “placeable” non-minorities in their “fillable” openings.  It becomes a formula that seems to work for them but is readily noticable.

Your argument for discriminating for a good recruitment outcome that saves precious time and has a win/win for everyone involved makes tactical sense.  However, it’s more related to being a Practical Recruiter rather than a Great Recruiter.  A great recruiter, if there is such a critter, would be able to place highly qualified candidates regardless of the candidate’s background and/or the client’s questionable preferences—in my view.  Discrimination cuts two ways—for good and bad results.  A lot depends on what results you’re willing to embrace.

Comment by Valentino Martinez on July 20, 2011 at 3:08pm


Please know I'm not accusing you of discriminating or implying that you're recommending it here in your blog post. 

I'm questioning where "practicality" in recruitment can take a recruiter.   My point being if you notice all your white male candidates seem to get the job over women and minority candidates you've recommended.  At what point do you get the message? On year, two years down the road? 

No employer in their right mind will suggest that you the recruiter must aid them in discriminating in their recruitment efforts, but results over time, are quite telling--wouldn't you agree--if those results showed that discrimination is alive and well with certain employers?

Comment by Greg Savage on July 20, 2011 at 3:21pm

I think you get the message very early in the process, and you keep referring the very best candidates regardless

But I don't see this happening very much any more.





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